Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Ahead of what promises to be a bruising home and home battle on the ice, we took the time to hear from Army Associate Head Coach Zach McKelvie on what AIC brings and why Eric Lang’s teams are always so good. Also hear from AIC Head Coach Eric Lang on who in his group has improved, along with what he has to say about the Black Knights, coached by Brian Riley. This series which could decide the final fate of Atlantic Hockey this year , starts tomorrow, and is a home-and-home series.
McKelvie on his group and their growth
What on film stands out to you the most about AIC?
“ Number one is that they are very well coached, you can tell their attention to detail and structure immediately on film. Number two is they have a lot of very talented players who compete hard and play with a purpose.
What is your biggest advantage against AIC?
“I’m not sure either team has any significant advantages over the other. I like the way AIC is built and I love the way we are built. Both teams will compete for 120 minutes plus if needed this week. I think when you have two highly competitive teams play each other a lot of it comes down to execution. We have a tremendous amount of respect for how they play and the things they do, they make you earn everything.”
What’s the biggest improvement in Gavins game that you’ve seen from last to this year?
“Confidence, division 1 hockey is a big jump for guys and so it takes time to get confidence and he has done a phenomenal job putting in the extra work to give himself confidence.”
Which plebe has stood out to you all the most so far?
“All our freshmen have stood out in positive ways early in the year. They all bring a unique skill set to the team which is nice from a coaching staff perspective. The one guy we are extremely proud of is Michael Sacco, he took a year off hockey to come play for us and we are all fortunate that he made the decision to come play here. He doesn’t look like he had a year off from hockey!”
What has been your teams biggest area of off Ice growth this season?
“Well time will tell as its pretty early in the season still. Right now we have a little adversity so with that comes an opportunity to grow as a group. We went through a similar start last season and eventually figured it out. Fortunately we have great leaders and a great group of seniors who for four years done a tremendous job making sure we have a good culture in this program.”
What is your favorite thing about how Eric Lang coaches his teams?
“ I could say a lot about the things I like about Langer’s coaching style and I was very fortunate to work along side him for two years…I can’t tell you how much I learned from him and how grateful I am for his mentorship. He obviously knows that game very well and knows how to teach it. But my favorite thing about Langer is that he is just an phenomenal human being, he cares for people, he’s humble, he’s genuine and he is a great father. And that’s how he coaches…that’s why he is successful.”
What is your team’s biggest opportunity for improvement this weekend?
“ Our biggest opportunity for improvement this weekend is continuing to learn to play for a full 60 minutes and manage the game properly. We have got better in every game this season and continue to see a lot of promise but we have yet to play to our full capabilities for a complete game.”
Now hear from Lang on what he likes in his group and what to expect from Army West Point.
“ They play with unbelievable structure and compete. They clearly have a plan in what makes them successful. You can certainly see why they have been one of the better teams in AHA the last 4 seasons.”
“We are very close is our biggest takeaway after playing defending National champs the last weekend. Our team knows we can go up and down the ice w any team in the country. It’s a matter of eliminating some self inflicted wounds.”
Lang talks about players who have improved , including fifth and six liners from last season fighting for play time right how.
“Dodero and Janhonen have taken monster steps. Both have all league potential.Austen Long is in terrific shape and will be counted on to provide us some energy. Darwin Lakoduk has taken a tremendous step as well. Hunter who played a lot is a big body and when he plays that way is a handful.”
Biggest change for the group so far
“It’s nice that our team can do some stuff away from the rink together this year. That’s part of the college experience I want them to enjoy most”
What do you like about teams coached by Brian Riley
“Brian Riley has something you can’t quantify as a coach. His players love him and respect him. He’s a giver by every meaning of the word. It allows him to coach his guys hard and hold them accountable because they know he would be the first one there in any time of need.
I worked there. I understand as well as anybody how hard it can be. Imagine building a hockey team, where you can only recruit american born players, that have to have Ivy League grades and oh by the way after you graduate go serve your country for five years. It’s a special place for special people but takes the most special leader to coach them at the level”… is great to see.
What’s the goal for your team in this series.
“Play a complete game. We are very close.”